Health Minister Robin Swann has announced payments for people who were diagnosed with Hepatitis C or HIV after receiving NHS-supplied infected blood.
The interim payments for Northern Ireland beneficiaries of the Infected Blood Payment Scheme will range between £4,000 and £8,000 per person, depending on individual circumstances.
It is expected that further support may be provided before the end of this financial year, informed by a wider ongoing review of overall provision for victims.
The interim payments have been made possible by a £1 million allocation to the Department of Health through the Department of Finance’s January monitoring round.
The Health Minister stated: “I very much welcome this allocation. It allows my Department to now issue payments to help alleviate hardship – ahead of concluding the review of the overall package of support in Northern Ireland.
“The use of contaminated blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s was clearly the worst disaster in UK health care since the creation of the NHS. I am very aware of the terrible suffering and financial hardship that people have endured as a result of receiving a devastating diagnosis following receipt of NHS contaminated blood.”
The current support scheme for victims of infected blood in Northern Ireland includes regular monthly or quarterly payments; lump sums, discretionary one-off grant payments; annual winter fuel payments and income top-ups. Different support schemes operate in other UK regions.
The regular payments were made at the same level in Northern Ireland and England until April 2019. At that point, the UK Government announced significant increases in regular payments in the English scheme. This created a divergence with Northern Ireland. No extra monies were allocated to Northern Ireland as a result of the increase in England.
Mr Swann further stated: “I am very conscious of the hurt this divergence with England has caused to victims of infected blood here. I hope the interim payments I have announced today will go some way toward addressing that hurt and alleviating financial hardship.
“I am also committed to a wider ongoing review of all the support provided to victims in Northern Ireland. I want to make sure all aspects of our support scheme best meet the needs of our people.”
The first phase of this review has already commenced and will inform the provision of further support before the end of this financial year.
The second phase of the review will address other aspects of the scheme, with a view to working towards greater parity of support across the UK schemes, taking account of local circumstances and beneficiaries’ needs in Northern Ireland.
Further reform of the scheme will be required to address recommendations from the UK-wide Infected Blood Inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff. It is due to deliver its report in 2021.